On February 1st, 2021, Council will be voting to either let Calgarians have their say on potential speed limit reductions in our City or to just make the decision themselves and reduce speed limits on neighbourhood streets immediately.
To be clear, Common Sense Calgary doesn't have a horse in this speed limit debate.
Maybe a speed limit reduction will lead to a significant reduction in fatalities on our streets or maybe it won't.
Maybe a speed limit reduction will save money or maybe it won't.
Maybe a speed limit reduction won't slow down Calgarians commutes or maybe it will.
The one thing we do know is that the only people who matter in this debate, and every other debate at City Hall are Calgarians.
Council and, even more importantly, unelected City Staff should never forget that they serve at the pleasure of the people.
Yet for some reason, City Administration think that you shouldn't get a say on what Calgary's speed limits should be!
Last year, several Councillors asked the City to consider whether this issue could be decided by Calgarians in a referendum.
City Administration have now reported back, and they are advising Council to vote against holding a referendum.
They say that letting Calgarians vote on whether speed limits should be lowered would be "risky" because you'd be too "confused" to make a decision.
We assume what they actually mean is they think you'd make the "wrong" decision!
Seriously, here's why they think you shouldn't get to decide, taken straight from their report to Council:
In other words, they think you will be uninformed, confused, and too easily influenced to be allowed to vote!
They're also worried that if you're allowed a vote on this issue, you might expect to get to vote on other issues too - the horror!
Referendums are the ultimate form of public consultation, utilizing direct democracy to guide decisions that will have a massive impact on the lives of residents - in this case, the commute times of a million people.
Debates like this need to happen in the public, where the people affected by the decision can ask the questions important to them, where individuals on both sides can plead their case, and where the City's data can be examined by independent experts who may or may not agree with the City's self-appointed experts.
The claim that political action committees might influence the decision is particularly galling.
Political action committees are regulated organizations made up of individual Calgarians, advocating for a policy issue they believe in, with money that has been voluntarily donated to them.
Contrast that to how the City itself has and will operate during a referendum campaign.
During the Olympics referendum campaign, the City set up what was effectively its own PAC, to lobby for the City's preferred outcome in favour of bidding to host the Games.
The City's PAC - BidCo - spent more than $1,000,000 on advertising alone to try to convince Calgarians.
That's right, the City spent millions of your taxes on trying to convince you and still failed.
Meanwhile, the "No" campaign's advertising budget was about $10 (yes, just $10!).
The truth of the matter is that if the City conducted genuine consultation with Calgarians on the speed limit issue, they'd probably already know what the majority of Calgarians think about this issue.
However, administration prefers to continue their long-standing practice of deciding what they want to do first, then conducting pretend consultations to give their decision an air of legitimacy, and then forcing that decision through Council as quickly as possible, before the public notices what's happening.
It's time for a change of direction at City Hall.
It's time to remind City Hall who is in charge - the citizens of this fine City.
This decision should be made by all Calgarians and only a referendum can do that.
Council must let Calgarians decide whether to reduce speed limits or not, by holding a vote of all Calgarians in conjunction with October's municipal election.
Please sign our petition to Council asking for a referendum and then spread the word to your friends, family, co-workers, and every Calgarian, so that our voices can finally be heard by City Hall.
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